Belief: Friend and Stranger

I am beginning to validate the desires and yearnings of the calling I felt as a child.

I have a vivid memory of being fairly little and sitting in a deep windowsill in a lecture hall in the engineering quad at UMass Amherst during a class my dad was teaching. I don't remember why I was there and I have a feeling my brother was too but I'm not sure because despite how vivid and sure my memories can seem, they can be wrong. I remember it as an evening class in one of the old rooms in Marston Hall that looks out onto the quad. I was sitting in the last window just to the side of the speaking podium. As my dad started the lecture he introduced me to the class. I'm sure the college students were wondering about the small child in the corner since that is a rare sight at a university. He introduced me by saying, "This is my daughter, Jessica. When she grows up she wants to be a writer or an artist." I remember being proud that I had a calling to my young life, happy that my dad knew me well, and very shy at the crowd of students suddenly looking at me. I went back to my drawing or writing or whatever creative project I was on at the time just to have a reason to look down.

poppy seed head at north hill garden in vermont

I think this memory is particularly strong because it is true and I can't think of another instance where who I am has been presented so clearly and felt so me. Just last year, after my second round of self-esteem injections at Squam Art Workshops, I decided to call myself an artist. It still feels weird to say it, but I do say it and mostly believe it. Only in the last year have I really realized that art and writing are what really makes me happy.

I believe in a lot of things. According to the Gallop Poll Strengths Finder, Belief is one of my top 5 strengths. I believe in God. I believe in God as Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I have a strong sense of right and wrong and justice. [Funny Story: I once called the police on a group of guys in the Cape Cod Lounge at UMass who were breaking the back off one of the chairs there. Filed a report and everything. My classmates got wide-eyed and told me I was crazy when I told them. I was...still am.] I believe in ghosts, fairies and Santa Claus as much as any reasonable adult can without also claiming I have physically seen them. I leave room for the unexplainable and the unseen. I believe we cannot understand or comprehend many things. I believe in parallel universes as much as any science teacher with a love of fantasy can. I am not afraid of paradoxes. I do not feel the need to reconcile my brain, my imagination, and my heart. I hold some part of my mind aside for entertaining the possibility that Jules Verne, C.S. Lewis, Holly Black, and Madeline L'Engle wrote truth from experience, not fantasy. I believe that fairies die when one says one does not believe in them. I believe that not believing closes doors and that adults who cannot think and believe as a child have a harder time getting through life because all of life cannot be explained and reasoned with.

birdcage at north hill garden

But I do not believe in myself. Maybe in spurts or in certain circumstances, but not really. Somewhere in my childhood I learned to be afraid. I am terrified of a great many things, especially failure. And at some point I decided that I couldn't be good enough to make a living at art and writing. I still think of it as being good enough. At some level it is, but I now think that there's more room for me than I originally perceived. And I am also starting to believe in myself. Very slowly but I feel every bit and every bit pushes me forward to be true to the little girl sitting on the wide windowsill coloring with her father going on in the background about circuits and things she has no desire to understand. This summer I decided that I am going to try to make a living at art and writing. I'm not sure how long it will take or what the journey will look like, but I am going to go for it and see what happens. For now that means I keep painting and blogging.

path at north hill garden

I cannot tell you how happy I am that the words are back and I am writing again...writing stronger and more honestly than before. Thanks for reading.

flying, aka repelling off the main face of rose ledge in northfield, massachusetts